The latest Secret Wars tie-in is set in the bloodiest, duskiest, and generally least inviting part of Battleworld: the Old Man Logan universe. Inspired by the seminal Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven, Old Man Logan was a Wolverine story written by Mark Millar (Secret Service) and drawn by Steve McNiven (Civil War) where the supervillains banded together and took control of the Marvel Universe. Mysterio manipulated Wolverine into killing all the X-Men so he took a vow never to pop his claws again and lived a quiet until the Hulk clan killed his wife and child. This led to him taking revenge on the Hulks and choosing to become a hero once again while taking care of the Hulk’s young son.
Old Man Logan #1 is set a few years after the events of the original story, and writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Andrea Sorrentino, and colorist Marcelo Maiolo show Wolverine inflicting viglante justice on child traffickers dressed as Iron Man and Daredevil. The extra page count allows Bendis and Sorrentino to show Wolverine in action, while setting up the ongoing mystery plot of the Old Man Logan comic, and having a pair of extended character moments with Dani Cage (the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones) and Emma Frost.
Bendis adapts his usual snappy, verbose style of dialogue in Old Man Logan to capture the feeling of Wolverine as an aged version of the Man with No Name. Wolverine uses a terse, folksy type of dialect that wouldn’t be out of place in a spaghetti Western, and he would much rather right wrongs than have a super long debate about the way he goes about righting those wrongs. As a man of action and liberator of oppressed people, it’s very easy to jump in and root for Wolverine, but then Bendis unpacks some of the cracks in his ideology through an extended conversation with Emma Frost.
This sequence done mostly in nine panel grids from Sorrentino shows these two formerly proud characters at their most vulnerable as Emma goes from teasing Wolverine with a sensual image of Jean Grey to dying in his arms as they reminisce about their time as teachers at the Xavier school. Conversations like this give a beating heart to Wolverine’s ultraviolence as he fights and hunts to stave off the fact that all his friends are dead and gone.
However, it is Andrea Sorrentino’s art and Marcelo Maiolo’s colors that truly give Old Man Logan its Sergio Leone-esque aesthetic with a pinch of superhero. In fact, the appearance of any kind of superhero mask or emblem signifies the narrative at its saddest. Who needs piles of skeletons and bodies when Iron Man and Daredevil are alcoholic slavers? Maiolo uses a burned out color palette to show how low this world has stooped before cutting to pure red and white when Wolverine appears.
Even though some parts of the opening action scene were unclear (Maybe this was the point with it being technically a bar brawl.), Andrea Sorrentino immediately enshrines himself with the best Wolverine artists by capturing Logan’s primal anger and pain through his art style and especially his layout choice. In the opening scene, Sorrentino literally eviscerates the page as he juxtaposes black space and Wolverine using his claws against these punks. These two pages show his ferocity and sheer annoyance with these evil men who are dressed up as his old friends. Maiolo uses a simple color palette of red and white to capture the sheer instinct of the moment after the previous page is a more traditional (yet still stunning) slow mo-style two page spread.
Sorrentino also uses the double page spread for beauty in Old Man Logan. With the help of mist effects and the play of purple and orange in the post-apocalyptic Nevada desert, Sorrentino brings the sheer aesthetic quality of a Sergio Leone wide establishing shot to the comics medium. This completely silent sequence captures the serene side of Wolverine’s character as all he really wants is peace and freedom. But it’s merely a moment, and the not so little interruption sets up the overarching conflict for the miniseries.
Old Man Logan #1 is a lot of things. A character study that captures the feral and peaceful parts of Wolverine through Maiolo’s shifting colors (The more violent the panel, the flatter the colors.) and Sorrentino’s layouts and close-ups of his well-worn face. It is also a chance for two of comics’ finest storytellers to place their mark on a classic genre. Even if you hate Wolverine, Old Man Logan #1 is worth picking up for its exploration of one man trying to find a kind of morally grey hope in a world bereft of it wonderfully rendered in a tapestry of blood, gunpowder, and desert sand. Leone, Morricone, and Eastwood would be proud.